Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Bring It On

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Total Black: $2,389.54
Total Red: $230,589.98

First day back being unemployed.  I won’t be able to resume collecting unemployment benefits, however, until at least a week has passed.  That’s how New York state runs its system.  You have to wait a week to get your benefits.  I don’t see the logic in that.  It’s not like your expenses or bills wait a week.  I truly hope much-needed common sense gets injected into the social services systems.

I’m optimistic that this bout of unemployment won’t last long though.  Certainly not as long as last time.  It is unnerving and worrying though, especially since I learned today that the landlord has commenced an eviction action against me.  In One Step Back, Two Steps Forward, I wrote about the rent demand the landlord’s attorneys issued me because of back rent owed for September and October.  As of the date the rent demand was written, October’s rent was only five days late.  September’s was just over a month.  As an attorney, I’m ashamed at the behavior of landlord attorneys.  They seem to be below ambulance chasers.  And my recent interaction with them doesn’t do anything do dispute that conclusion.

The landlord’s attorney drafted the rent demand and wrote a letter to me, and both were dated Tuesday, October 6th.  They weren’t mailed, however, until October 9th, a Friday.  In addition, they sent the letters via certified mail but in an unmarked envelope with only a street address as the sender.  Thus, the post office’s delivery notice, left on Monday, October 13th, listed only a zip code as the sender.  I’ve received a lot of random packages.  Thus, nothing about that letter alerted me to its urgency.  With my crazy work schedule these past few weeks, I’ve had little time for errands.  I made it to the post office by Friday, October 19t.  Of course, once I retrieved the letter, and understood its import, I responded to the rent demand via telephone, email, and mail to let the landlord, its management company, and its lawyers know that I did not want to matter to escalate any further.  As of today, I’ve already sent in payments for $3,000 of the $4,000 owed.

But yet today, I received a letter from another of the landlord’s attorneys, noting that he received my letter and stating how “unfortunate” it was that a civil petition had already been filed.  His recommendation was for me to file an answer, get a court date, and then they’d work with me on paying arrears.  What?!  His advice was to engage in litigation, only to have the lawsuit dismissed?  Even having Landlord v. Laid-Off Lawyer in court files could mean that future landlords could find that information.  It would be a public record.  Why would anyone accept that outcome, especially since the arrears would be taken care of before we even got to court?

So instead, this evening, I sent my own letter to the landlord’s attorney.  I explained all the complications with delivery and notice that I noted above and I asked them to withdraw the petition.  I explained that if they do not, I would answer the petition, and include a counterclaim for breach of the warranty of habitability.  When landlords lease their premises to tenants, the premises must be habitable.  By renting an apartment, a landlord states that he’s checked the place out and it’s fit for human habitation.  Well, mine wasn’t.  I’ve not mentioned this yet; there really hasn’t been a need to in this blog, though I hinted at it in A Day in the Life, when I mentioned having had to get things “under control” just after I moved into this apartment last October.  But a year ago, in addition to getting laid-off, I moved into a new apartment . . . and inherited bedbugs.  I don’t want to get into the discussion of it here.  It was bad enough that I had friends staying over who found them for me.  The bugs even made an appearance in their blog, as humiliating as that was.  It took months and too much money to get rid of them.  Not a night goes by when I don’t wonder if something else is crawling into bed with me.  Even though it’s been over ten months since I had any problems.  I trust I won’t need to go into the specifics on this site, but I informed the landlord’s lawyers that if they did not withdraw the lawsuit against me, I’d counterclaim for breach and sue for damages.  New York case law has already found landlords liable for bedbug infestations, so I have the law on my side.

Something clicked today.  I’m sick of being pushed around.  I noted a similar realization in Pussyfootin’ Around.  So today I said, “bring it on!”  Enough already.  My nature is to avoid conflict.  Despite liking litigation, and being a lawyer, I’m fairly stereotypical in that I’ve never been good at standing up for myself.  Maybe that’s why I went into law.  And maybe that’s the lesson I’m supposed to be learning in New York because this city keeps bashing me and beating me down.  I’m worse off in so many ways than three years ago when I arrived here.  My self-esteem is lower.  My debt is higher.  My self-confidence is demolished.  But, they’re all interconnected and it’s time I start pushing back.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

October 26, 2009 at 22:58

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